The historiography of slavery in the nineteenth century has undergone a dramatic shift over the past few years. The "second slavery" as well as work on the relationship between American slavery and capitalism, have altered some of the basic paradigms which have propped up thinking about the institution in the history of the United States. This essay surveys the intellectual origins and development of both projects. It offers a critique of the assumptions which undergird this new work, while at the same time pointing up how these two projects might engage with and be challenged by the history and historiography of American emancipation. In particular, a history of coerced labor in the United States and around the world in the nineteenth century, counters the often insular way in which the story of emancipation and Reconstruction is traditionally cast.